🎭 Happy Habit #4: Invest in experiences—not things...
• 4 min read
• 4 min read
There is overwhelming evidence that experiences make people happier than material possessions . Furthermore, people tend to see materialistic people as more selfish and less enjoyable to engage with in social settings .
So much of our materialist desires are mimetic, that is, we don't actually want them intrinsically, we want them due to our bias for social comparison and imitation . In other words, we want nice things because other people want them.
If we invest in experiences, we feel more satisfied and connected to other people who have had similar experiences . When reflecting on the experiences we spend money on, we tend to feel more connected to others in general, more likely to engage in social activities and to behave in a way that benefits society as a whole.
'Hedonic adaptation' refers to the process by which we quickly return to a baseline of happiness after positive or negative events. We've all experienced this, but most of us are unaware how prevalent and powerful this phenomenon is. Hardly any of us think of the hedonic treadmill when we consider how we approach spending money, yet it is one of the key elements if we want to use our hard-earned money to build happier lives.
If you've ever noticed yourself getting less satisfaction from a physical pleasure in your life over time, you've experienced hedonic adaptation. There's a classic spike in the initial experience and then the enjoyment wanes over time. Eventually you find yourself yearning to take the next step up the hedonic treadmill towards the bigger, better, faster version of whatever we bought.
This is one of the main reasons we don't experience lasting happiness from buying stuff: We get used to it. We normalize it and feel less satisfied over time.
This is compounded by the fact we compare our material possessions to those of others.
With experiences on the other hand, we aren't able to adapt to them in the same way. The positive experiences live in our memory and allow us to ignite pleasure just by remembering them.
And we only have to pay for the experience the first time. What a bargain!
It's also more accessible for others to enjoy our shared experiences as we have evolved to tell stories as a primary mode of communication. Storytelling is the original form of entertainment and community building.
Bragging about the new car we got or fancy house doesn't light up the same parts of our brain as sharing a close encounter cliff diving.
So if you're looking to get a happiness return on your investment (hROI), play around but buying experiences instead of things!
Remember: Only try things you actually want to do. Guilt isn't a reliable motivator for creating lasting change. On the other hand, curiosity and playfulness is...
Assuming this is a happy habit you want to experiment with, you can approach this in a few ways. Here are some tips you might find helpful:
Here are a list of some awesome experiences that came to mind for me:
If you're like me and find yourself constantly thinking about things that will make your life better, try making buying stuff harder to do:
This is a really big shift in mindset for most people. I spent most of my life focusing on acquiring material possessions. My brain is hardwired to think about all the stuff I want.
It's been a fun exercise for me to try and direct my consumerist desires towards experiential ones. Hopefully you can enjoy this one too.
As always, give it a go and let me know what you think of this week's edition of Happy Habits!
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